Jun 9, 2019
Your brain is far too efficient for a boring old life loop
Picture this, you’re driving back home from work. You blink and you’re home. Were you on autopilot? Was anyone in danger? Scary, right?
I don’t think it is quite that scary. While it is true it feels like you’ve just driven without any care and attention I think it’s more a sort of brain deduplication that’s causing the effect. It’s not that you weren’t paying attention on the way home it’s more that your journey was so similar to previous journeys that your brain had no differences to store. Your memory of the trip was deduplicated to save storage space.
Another example. Now that you’re older you swear your years are flashing before your eyes. Used to be that a 5 year block might contain entirely different lives. One block you were in school, then another school, then college, then a job, then another job. Each 5 year block is a new life. Now though? Now you blink and 5 years has become 10, 10 has become 15. Time is slipping away without you even noticing.
Deduplication, not just for computers as it turns out. The older you get, the more experiences you have for your brain to cut memory corners. This drive home is the same as that drive home except this time some guy beeped his horn at you. Your brain stores the beep, not the full drive. Congratulations your week now feels like it went by 10 seconds slower than last week. Your memory has a new note saying “Same again, but a guy beeped”. You’ll look back on this delta fondly, I’m sure.
It doesn’t just apply to the drive home of course. Your day to day falls into “The Loop”
The Loop, while it shares a snazzy code name as WordPress, has nothing to do with making a blog theme. The Loop is your main life. The day to day. Everything is a loop if you let it loop. Your day to day job. Your social life. Heck, your love life if you’re not careful.
Work as a Loop
You wake up at sametime o’clock in the morning and eventually decide between quitting your job on the spot to get another 10 minutes sleep and getting out of bed. You wash, brush, and yawn your way out of the house. Grab your commute vehicle of choice. Do the same journey to work you’ve done every day since forever. Arrive at work, duck behind a coffee pot for a much needed kick-me-up. Eventually find yourself in front of the same desk with the same screen with the same dusty post-it reminding you to do the same dusty task you’ve done a million other times.
Your workmates are this side of being just distracting enough to be annoying while not being distracting enough to make any real difference. You drown out their nattering with your industrial grade ear protection noise cancellator 5 million headphones. Bliss, you call it. The Loop accepts your sacrifice.
The tasks might be micro different but at the macro scale they’re all the same. You grab some data. Change it somehow. Dump it out someplace else. Repeat this for an hour or two then go to the same place you went yesterday for lunch. Grab the same sandwich, drink the same cup of coffee. Your loop intersects with the barrista’s loop and you exchange the same pleasantries you did yesterday, last week, last month, last year.
“The Usual” you call it.
Back to work. Back to looking at the dusty tasks with the dusty data exchange and the dusty same old same old. Do that for a few more hours and you come out of the zone just long enough to watch the clock for an uncomfortable amount of time. Eventually you’re free, just gotta wait till these numbers line up to the numbers that unlocks you from this groundhog day wannabe situation you’re stuck in.
Success! You made it through another day. You blink and you’re home, you sit on the same couch, watch the same junky Netflix input, realise the clock’s gone by just fast enough that you’ve barely got time to do any of the housework that needs doing (its ok, we can do it at the weekend). You’ve got just enough time to eat the same old meal to keep the same old life going on. You dump yourself into bed and what feels like 20 seconds pass before you wake up to the sound of an alarm. The alarm alerts you that you’re running late for the next cycle.
Heck, at least we have weekends!
After 5 work cycles you’re allowed to close the macro cycle we have all agreed to call a week. Do it for the weekend, someone as covertly depressed as you probably said at some point. The week. It’s really just the next loop up. It’s loops all the way up really. Just as repetitive. 5 work cycles and a mad rush to cram in as much housework and socialization as you can before Monday signals the next cycle. Do it for the weekend, because it’s all you’ve really got.
So how do we all avoid blowing our brains out?
Holidays, vacation time, paid time off. Some folks get loads, others that live in less socially developed countries such as America get something like 5 minutes PTO per year worked. In any case, it’s the only time you get outside the loop. Make it count.
Travel, experience, adventure. Do something that’s not just an extension of the weekend. Grab the loop by its dusty old curves and give it a proper kicking. Do something different. Make your brain store the entire event, don’t even let your travel plans become the same. For your next time out of the loop challenge yourself - None of this trip will be deduplicated. I’m gonna store every second of this.
Woah jeez dude are you like super depressed or something
Hah no. Well I mean maybe. Probably. I usually take magic pills that stop the loops being as depressing but I’ve ran out of them at the moment ‘cause the pharmacy’s decided swiftness isn’t a requirement for such things.
Anyway. Assuming no, at a certain point you’ve gotta earn money to pay the bills (they’re in the month loop. 5 working day loops combined with 2 days of “aw crap the house needs hoovering” times four). I guess what I’m really writing about is my realisation that booking time off work just to have time off work is not helpful in the long run. I need to spend the time off in a way that’s super different. No more just extending the weekends.
Travel, adventure, experience. It’s all there is. Things have to be different to avoid eventually realising that you’ve done nothing worth noting.
Alright where’s all this going?
I got nothing else unfortunately. This part of the “write a blog post” loop has had an intro, had a middle, almost had an end. I’ve waffled on enough.
Finally - write a blog. Getting all these thoughts out has been refreshing, even if nobody will ever read them. Till the next cycle, have a good’un.